Dear Subscribers:We have a request for you from our friends at Childnet International in London: If any of you are aware of an Internet proficiency test used in online training at your school or library, could you send us a URL or contact information? Thanks in advance. You'll find more information on Childnet's new Net-ed project below. Here's our lineup for this first week of September:
- Family Tech: PCs on campus
- Childnet: Toward ensuring Net benefits (for kids)
- Web News Briefs: Net replacing library; Respecting copyrights; Students' harmful prank; Parents on e-learning; Teen diaries online; Net-use stats; E-auction fraud....
- Child porn update
Support us and shop at... Publishers Pipeline - low-cost or free educational software,
electronics, housewares, PC hardware, music CDs, etc. Examples this week:
Princeton Review Middle School 4-CD Set (Regularly $49.97, $19.97 after Instant Rebate)
Kid Pix by Broderbund (Regularly $31.97, $11.97 after Instant Rebate)
Barbie Digital Camera/Photo Design Software (Regularly $49.99, $19.99 after Instant Rebate)
Family Tech: PCs on campus
There's a real advantage to living in a college dorm (as opposed to off-campus) in these digital times: a wall connection to the high-speed campus network. And that means several things, as SafeKids.com's Larry Magid points out in his Los Angeles Times column: "Students can get on the campus network to exchange files with other students and their professors and access campus printers." It also means "the ability to download music and video from such services as Morpheus, iMesh, Aimster, and Napster, if it ever gets back online." Read Larry's "Computers on campus" to find out what sorts of hardware and software a university student can really use.
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Childnet: Toward ensuring Net benefits (& a question for you)
What better place than school to include a whole community - kids, parents, and educators - in an effort aimed at making the Net a great place for kids? That's the logical thinking behind Childnet International's newest project, Net Benefit?. It's basically a one-day educational event with something for everyone (workshops, seminars, dramatizations, print materials, etc.). The program's in its early stages, having launched in July in Wales and northwestern England. Among the many things we like about it are Childnet's way of...
- Treating Net Benefit? as a work in progress (maybe a bit like open source software), open to learning what the project can teach everyone involved in it about Net education.
- Creating a balanced curriculum, presenting the Net's benefits as well as risks.
- Drawing on many areas of expertise, internationally - parents, educators, policymakers, businesses, and actors (doing dramatizations designed for kids).
They chose to incorporate theater because "we are interested not in simply informing teachers, students, and parents but changing students' online behavior," Childnet's Stephen Carrick-Davies told us. "The drama we commissioned was particularly powerful, and children as young as eight years old were really moved and challenged by the 'near miss' scenario." It does seem to us that, as kids' Internet use gets increasingly sophisticated, the need to change behavior only grows.
One reason we're telling you all is this because, as mentioned up top there, Childnet wants to tap your expertise (and rollodexes). Stephen emailed us that Net Benefit? wants to include Internet proficiency tests and certificates (for "graduates") in the program. Are any of you aware of Net proficiency tests used in your schools or communities? If so, please contact Stephen about it, (of course you're always welcome to email us too - especially if you want to share great resources with fellow subscribers).
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Web News Briefs
- Net replacing library for students
Not a huge surprise for some parents, teachers, and librarians, but that in itself is notable. Also interesting: 78% of US teenagers say the Internet helps them with schoolwork, and their parents believe so at an even higher percentage: 87% (55% of the parents also said the Net has been a good thing for their children, and 55% said they believe that knowledge of how to use it is essential for children to learn in order to be successful). The Pew Internet & American Life Project keeps cranking out noteworthy data, and this latest piece is no different. Other key findings from teens surveyed about the Net and schoolwork include these:
- Asked about their most recent major school report, 71% of teenagers with Net access said they relied on Internet sources the most in completing the project, while 24% said they relied mostly on library sources.
- 94% said they use the Internet for school research.
- 41% said they use email and instant messaging to contact teachers or classmates about schoolwork.
- 34% of online youth have downloaded an online study aid.
- On the downside, 18% said they know of someone who has used the Internet to cheat on a paper or test.
- Respecting copyrights on the Net
UK schools may soon be stepping up efforts to teach respect for intellectual property (including Net-based music file-sharing). According to Salon.com, "representatives from British broadcasting, the music industry, publishers, and others with an interest in protecting copyrighted material" are trying to have the topic included in the new citizenship course that will be compulsory in UK secondary schools starting in September 2002. "This new citizenship program aims to teach pupils social and moral responsibility, political literacy, sex education, and the importance of marriage and family life," Salon.com reports.
As for plagiarism - an Internet copyright issue that the Salon article did not address - some educators believe the problem is about to grow significantly. According to Wired News, although more than half of the high school students surveyed by a University of Virginia research project admitted they have engaged in some level of plagiarism using the Net, "the number of self-described 'new cheaters' who use the Internet is relatively low." One researcher estimated that 5-10% of students who had not previously plagiarized written sources have been attracted by the Internet. "That number is expected to grow as students who grew up using computers in high school enter college," Wired News adds. Here's a WashingtonPost.com piece on what schools can do to keep students from treating the Web like a giant, "searchable cut-'n'-paste-able encyclopedia"!
Parents and teachers, for help in teaching Internet ethics, see our lead item on the subject in the 4/20/01 issue.
- Students' harmful prank
Northeastern UK newspapers indicate this is a trend: schoolchildren "downloading pornography from the Internet or scanning in pictures from magazines and pasting on their teachers' faces," then publishing them on the Web. ThisistheNortheast.co.uk quotes an official of the National Association of Schoolmasters' Union of Women Teachers as saying that the students see this behavior as a game, not realizing the damage that can be done to their teachers' careers. He suggested that parents need to get involved. Might he be right?! We keep mentioning a past feature on kids & Net ethics, but we'd love to hear some suggestions from all of you (via firstname.lastname@example.org) about how we can all help our kids do a better job of extending their sense of right and wrong to their online activities.
- Online high school courses: Parents' views
A 33-year-old annual education survey about public schooling just this year added two questions about online learning for the first time, and the results were interesting. According to eSchoolNews.com, "49% of the public school parents who approve of online learning say they'd be comfortable with having their high-school-age kids take most of their high-school courses online." However, the Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup Poll also found that only about a third of parents of public-school students say they approve of "cyber education" (classes via the Net instead of in a regular classroom). Educators' explanations for these findings and the demographic breakdown discussed later in the piece make for interesting reading. While we're on the subject, this week Wired News ran an update on the state of the e-learning industry.
- Kids' online safety in Wales
For online-safety reasons, Wales's government is rethinking the technology it provides all Welsh schoolchildren. According to Ananova.com, a plan to provide each child with an email address was scrapped, due to concern that, with those email addresses, children would be vulnerable in online chatrooms. Internet access for all students was made the priority instead. The Education Department also issued new guidelines to schools on the safe use of emails, and the Welsh Assembly "will now include questions on email security in an audit of information technology in schools," Ananova reports. Our thanks to QuickLinks for pointing this out. (For keeping kids safe in online chat, here's a great, kid-friendly resource: ChatDanger.com.)
- Teen diaries made public
We've touched on this before - when subscriber Laura wrote us with concerns about her daughter's use of OpenDiary.com. She's not alone. About 20% of 12-to-17-year-olds, or 4 million US teens, have personal Web pages, reports the Washington Post, citing a Pew Internet & American Life study. And that's just teens who've gone to the trouble of building their own pages. The Post's piece this week takes a fairly in-depth look at the pluses and minuses (for the teen diarists), the reasons and risks involved in putting one's thoughts and life "out there" for all to see. The Post mentions one 32-year-old male frequenter of two teen girls' sites who likens visiting them to reading books like "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl" or "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." He said he sent one of the girls a Web camera as a "thank-you present," and the Post story indicates that these Web "sugar daddies" are not unusual on the teen-diary scene.
- Net-use stats: US households, UK schools
Despite the state of the tech industry, Internet use certainly continues to grow. Sixty-one percent, or 65 million US households are now "actively online," according to Gartner Dataquest research. That's a 15% increase over last November's ratings, the study found. "Actively online" means "at least one person who went online at least once per month." Gartner added that one-quarter of those online households have high-speed connections.
The British government announced this week that 96% of UK primary schools are online now, according to TheRegister.com. That compares with 83% in 1997. As for the ratio of computers to students: "Primary schools have one computer for every 11.8 children, compared to one for every 17.6 four years ago. In secondary schools, there is one computer for every 7.1 pupils, up from one per 8.7," The Register reports. And Nua Internet Surveys reports that only 1% of UK college and university students have never used the Net. One-third of post-secondary students use the Internet every day; over half use it 3-5 times a week; two-thirds own computer; and 58% of first-year students took their own computer to college with them, the survey (by Virginstudent.com) found.
As for students on the other side of The Pond, here's a helpful chart at the Christian Science Monitor, showing US student-to-computer ratios at a glance.
- E-auction fraud protection
The best protection is information - how a particular online auction works, who and where the seller is, what the product's really worth, and how best to make a purchase. ABCNews.com has a very helpful piece that offers details on how to do that homework, some real-life experiences with fraud, and some links to anti-fraud resources on the Web.
While we're on the subject, eBay.com announced this week that every visitor to its site gets a "cookie." According to the Washington Post, eBay's doing this "to facilitate and expedite" users' experience at the online auction site (basically because eBay users otherwise complain about repeatedly having to type in their user IDs, eBay says). Cookies are little text files Web sites place on visitors' computers to track their movements in the site.
- Voice of America, Internet-style?
Voice of America, which has been broadcasting the US view of the world worldwide for decades, is reportedly expanding its services for Chinese news consumers. According to the New York Times, VOA new-media services include VOANews.com, with live streaming and an archive of audio broadcasts in more than 50 languages streamed live and archived on the site (text is archived in almost all the languages), a daily Chinese-language newsletter that is emailed to 180,000 people, and a Chinese-language news site. VOA's latest effort is "masquerading technology" and a US-based "computer network designed to thwart attempts by the Chinese government to censor the World Wide Web for users in China," the Times reports.
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Child porn update
It's not an easy subject to confront (or report on), but exposure is important for a part of cyberspace that thrives on anonymity and secrecy. Our thanks to QuickLinks in the UK for turning up media reports on the subject in many countries; this update links to only a sample of them. What these reports indicate is that, although the Internet has become a tool for sexual predators, it is also an increasingly effective one for law enforcement worldwide as well. The problem and the technologies involved have become a catalyst for international cooperation and for educating police, legislators, and the public.
London's Daily Telegraph provides a thorough update on the worldwide struggle against child pornography - as reflected in one huge, very difficult case. It looks at Operation Cathedral - the international police investigation into the world's largest child porn ring, the "Wonderland Club." "Action has been taken in just a quarter of the 46 countries where Wonderland members were known to be active," the Telegraph reports, because, "in the case of some countries, the legal framework to punish Internet pornographers was unavailable or their law enforcement agencies were considered too corrupt to participate in a sensitive international inquiry." For example, Ireland, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, Spain, and South Africa were excluded from the Interpol conference where anti-Wonderland raids were planned "because they often lacked either the expertise or the political will to tackle the issue," the Telegraph adds.
In Indonesia, police said recently they were confident of tracking down Indonesians involved in a global Internet child porn ring (the commercial one, with arrests recently made in Texas - see "Child porn sting"), but were not sure whether the country's laws could secure a conviction. The South China Morning Post had that report. Costa Rica apparently is trying to turn around its image as a haven for child pornographers. A Canadian man was sentenced in Costa Rica (where possession of child pornography is legal) this week to 23 years in prison for sexually exploiting underage girls and distributing their pictures over the Internet. The Costa Rican Supreme Court confirmed the ruling by a lower court, Wired News reports. Russian police, too, appear to be stepping up their fight against online porn. The Moscow Times has a brief report on what they're up against.
The varying penalties that convicted sexual predators get in different countries - whether or not child pornography is legal - illustrate the complexities of combating the problem....
New Zealand: A teacher there found in possession of 1,000 child pornography images was fined $1,100, "with his former school now moving to have him struck off the teachers' register," the New Zealand Herald reports.
UK: A pedophile in Norfolk received an eight-year sentence after admitting to 13 charges involving underage girls he met in online chatrooms, the BBC reports. Police say they're still investigating whether he's committed other related crimes.
US: A disturbing precedent might've been set in Louisiana, when a man who admitted possession of child pornography received a lighter sentence than what US federal guidelines call for "because the judge found him addicted to pornography," Britain's The Guardian reports. The piece adds that the federal sentencing guidelines call for 21-24 months, but the judge gave this perpetrator 13 months and recommended that he be treated in prison. He had been working part-time in the children's wing of a hospital.
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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!
Anne Collier, Editor
Net Family News
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